Lifeboat Farm

Power cut? What power cut?
October 7, 2009, 2:24 pm
Filed under: Energy, Technology, The House

We are in the middle of a scheduled power outage thanks to our lines company. The last “planned” outage for maintenance we were supposed to have never happened, so I was a bit blase when the letter arrived announcing today’s outage. Someone new must be in charge because at 1:00pm exactly our power went off.

Thankfully things haven’t changed too much this afternoon. We still have the range going to cook lunch, make cups of tea and keep us warm.

My laptop has been going for an hour and a half so far on battery and still seems to have plenty of juice left.

Our little UPS is doing admirably and with only the small load of our router and wireless internet dish it is still going strong 90 minutes into the outage.

So all in all – a good test and a nice reminder that life without electricity (for a short while anyway) is quite bearable.


Sorting Firewood
May 8, 2009, 8:33 pm
Filed under: Energy, The House, Trees

We are lucky to have neighbours with large properties (and trees). There always seem to be trees around to put away for winter firewood. This is one small piece of a tree I was able to get to. Luckily, most of the wood we collect has been down for some time so is well on the way to being well seasoned.

And here is the same tree a few hours later. It’s amazing how much wood you can get split in a morning! Those that know the size our float will appreciate just how much wood is there.


The Heart of the House
December 22, 2008, 5:59 pm
Filed under: Building, Energy, Food, The House

It’s been a long time coming but our wood range is finally installed and working. More details soon, but here’s our first fire in preparation for our first wood-fired cup of tea.

Solar Powered Shed
October 1, 2008, 10:43 am
Filed under: Building, Energy, Technology

With the stables fit out finished it was time to finish off the solar power project for the shed. This is our first foray into solar power so we started small, modular and scalable. We really just wanted the ability to run lights and the occasional small appliance (like horse clippers) from the 3-bay shed. It’s about 40m from the house so it wasn’t worth the effort and disruption of digging cable from the house.

The panel on the roof of the shed is just 10w – enough to trickle charge a battery. I’d calculated our use to be fairly small, and with a reasonable capacity battery, there was no need to charge it any faster than 10w. That said, there is room on the roof stand to mount another panel in future if we need more power. The panel is incredibly effective and even produces power on an overcast, showery day.

The panel faces North and is set at an angle of 42 degrees. Interestingly, the optimal angle to maximise your solar absorption is the same as your latitude – in our case 42 degrees.

The battery and charge regulator are the smallest capacity I could find, but still with some room for expansion. The setup is pretty straightforward – energy comes from the panel into the regulator and then to the battery. The battery is wired to a switch to control the lights.

With such a small solar panel, a charge regulator isn’t strictly required as it would be almost impossible to overcharge the battery, but I never miss a chance to buy a box with blinky lights on it…and we can add more panels in future without worrying about cooking the battery. When the battery is full, the regulator stops charging it.

The battery is a bog standard car battery. You can spend a fortune on deep-cycle batteries, designed to discharge and recharge many times over, but as our battery will never be less than around 95% charged, a cheaper car battery is fine. It has a capacity of 32AH (or approximately 1 amp of current draw for 32 hours).

I’ve used standard TPS house wire for all the wiring and it seems to work fine (although it might be slightly less efficient). With 12V systems you want to use the thickest gauge wire you can, but we’re dealing with short distances (and I happened to have a roll of house cable lying around).

The lights are 12v LED spots with 48 white LEDs in each cluster. They draw 1w of power and put out a lot of light for their size. Three of these at the front of the stall allow more than enough illumination to change a bandage, feed the calves etc. Now that I’ve tested them, I’ll put another strip of three in the middle of each stall.

The inverter is a cheapie from Dick Smith. It is only 300w so it will run a 240V radio, clippers etc. We could replace it in the future with something more substantial if we needed to use power tools out there for example.

Finally, a nice chunky waterproof swith to control all that solar power.

Future plans for the shed include 12v sensor lights and possibly a small wireless repeater to extend the farm wi-fi network, but that’s definitely for another day…

May 2, 2008, 3:48 pm
Filed under: Decorating, Energy, The House

With Winter approaching we took advantage of Karen’s parents visiting to enlist Anne into curtain making duties. We managed to get the entire house sorted, including four roman blinds – quite an effort. As chief measurer and cutter I can take responsibility for any imperfections (not that I could find any) and it was great to pick up a few sewing pointers on the way. I managed to whip up a few draft stoppers for some of the draftier doors.

The fabric was snaffled in Auckland on sale by Anne and it’s thermal lined so should make a big difference to winter warmth with some of our big windows. A huge thanks to Anne and Dave for paying such a productive visit.

The finished curtains (well some of them).

One of many pieces we cut out.

Our Masterton sweat shop team in operation (AKA Anne and Dave).

Draft stopper in action (covering a half inch gap under the door).